07 April 2019

'Taught the stones shouldn't be too big'

Brunei is introducing strict new anti-LGBT laws, with some offences punishable by stoning to death - a move which has sparked international condemnation.

Two Bruneians, who have left the country, share their experiences of what it's like growing up as an LGBT person in Brunei. [BBC] Read more

Government adviser on Islamaphobia gave his backing to a Pakistani cleric who called for a Christian mother to be hanged for blasphemy

An imam recruited to advise the Government on ‘tackling Islamophobia’ has publicly supported a cleric in Pakistan who has campaigned for a Christian woman to be hanged for blasphemy.

Qari Asim, who is part of an 11-strong panel assembled by the Communities Department, supported preacher Khadim Rizvi, who demanded the death penalty for Asia Bibi, who was falsely accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

She spent nine years on death row until she was acquitted in October.

Mr Asim’s past emerged as part of a Mail on Sunday investigation into the Working Group on Anti-Muslim Hatred, which advises Ministers and senior civil servants on measures to combat anti-Muslim bigotry and hate crimes.

When Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted Ms Bibi last year, Rizvi’s group, Tehreek-e-Labbaik, caused nationwide riots, demanding that she be hanged.

.... The working group, which was established in 2012, has been controversial, with a number of moderate Muslim leaders saying that some of its members were religious hardliners with bigoted views.

One former member said: ‘I resigned because I felt extremists were on board, and I could not work with them.

‘I also felt the group was just a box-ticking exercise.’

The ex-member said the group met quarterly, and reported its findings to senior civil servants who would attend its meetings.

A Communities Department spokesman said Mr Asim never intended to ‘endorse’ cleric Rizvi: ‘Imam Qari Asim did not intend that publication to be an endorsement of Rizvi and so took the article down, which he replaced with one calling for tolerance for all.’ [Daily Mail] Read more

04 April 2019

'German Islam': Can a state-led project succeed with a new interpretation of religion?

.... While the programme was launched in 2006 by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, it was mainly initiated to promote dialogue between representatives of the German government and the country's Muslim community, it significantly transformed over the years. Even though it was originally designed as a mechanism of communication and dialogue between the German state and Muslims living in Germany, the conference added a completely new dimension to its programme: redefining Islam.

The initiative to redefine and adjust Islam to German values combined with efforts to stimulate the integration of Muslims into German society is not an entirely new idea. In early 2000's former Interior Minister Otto Schily for example, raised this issue when saying that Muslims had to be assimilated and be prepared to adopt a "European Islam". [The New Arab] Read more

Adopting the new Islamophobia definition would be terrible for the Tories

I do not think I am alone in having real difficulty with the word Islamophobia and attempts to define it as “a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”. Racism of any sort is unacceptable and catered for in the existing law, but this definition is impossibly vague. The reality is that it will preclude any criticism of “Muslimness” which, however well balanced and evidenced, will automatically be regarded as racist.

Let me give you an example. When I was a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, we examined legislation to ensure that it did not involve any violations of human rights. For the same reason, we conducted thematic enquiries. I suggested the position of Muslim women in the UK might merit an enquiry.

A preliminary examination of the evidence suggested that an enquiry might be worthwhile. But the majority of the Committee decided against it on the basis that it might be regarded as anti-Muslim even to have an enquiry, unless all women were included. It was difficult to avoid the conclusion that the parliamentarians were simply too frightened of the consequences for their reputation of even embarking on the exercise. [The Spectator] Read more

Psychologist against LGBT+ lessons investigated by professional body for ‘unethical’ comments

A prominent campaigner against relationship and sex education (RSE) lessons including sections on LGBT+ partnerships, is being investigated by her professional body over comments deemed to be "unethical".

The British Psychological Society said it was “extremely concerned” by the views expressed by chartered psychologist Dr Kate Godfrey-Faussett on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In a talk that was filmed, the Muslim convert who has led a campaign opposing mandatory RSE lessons in schools, said that many young Muslims were “turning to same-sex relationships because they haven’t had the guidance.”

It emerged after education experts have warned that recent protests outside two primary schools in Birmingham against LGBT+ inclusive lessons could spread across the country. [The Independent] Read more

02 April 2019

Iranian women's rights activist says NZ hijab display after Christchurch shooting is 'heartbreaking'

A women's rights activist in Iran says her heart broke when she saw New Zealanders wearing the hijab in an attempt at solidarity following the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Masih Alinejad, an Iranian activist and journalist who hosts the website My Stealthy Freedom where women in Iran post photos without headscarves, admired Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's compassion, but was conflicted about the national display.

After 50 people were shot dead in two Christchurch mosques on March 15, photos of Ardern wearing a hijab went around the world, with many political commentators admiring her act of solidarity.

Alinejad, who has lived in self-imposed exile since 2009 and received death threats for her campaigning against Iran's obligatory wearing of headscarves, told Reuters: "I felt admiration that a prominent leader and women in New Zealand showed compassion to the Muslim community, but I also felt that you are using one of the most visible symbols of oppression for Muslim women in many countries for solidarity, and it also broke my heart. [NZ Herald] Read more

'It broke my heart': Iranian women's rights activists says she wishes the Jacinda Ardern hadn't worn the hijab to meet Muslims following the Christchurch mosque slaughter

An Iranian women's rights activist has spoken out against Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's decision to wear a hijab following the Christchurch mosque terror attacks.

Masih Alinejad is both an activist and journalist, and is outspoken in her condemnation of Iran's laws surrounding obligatory wearing of headscarves.

Ms Alinejad said seeing images of Ms Ardern wearing a headscarf in solidarity with the victims of the Christchurch massacre 'broke her heart'.

She said while she admired the New Zealand leader's compassion and desire to connect with her Muslim community, the headscarf is a sign of oppression for many women. [Daily Mail Australia] Read more

Homophobic and misogynistic books found in library at Islamic primary school

Zakariya Primary School on Romford Road has been rated ‘inadequate’ a second time by the inspectors after a visit in February.

In their report, inspectors say leaders at the school have not ‘taken effective steps to protect pupils from extreme views’.

One book the inspectors found said: ‘Many so-called wise people are committing it, but sodomy is such an awful thing that even animals abhor it except the pigs.’

Another said: ‘A wife must not deny herself to her husband… Moreover, the wife is not permitted to do anything that may render her companionship less desirable or less gratifying. If she does any such thing or neglects herself, the husband has the right to interfere with her freedom and to rectify the situation.’

While leaders at the school said the pupils do not use the library, the children told Ofsted that they do on a regular basis.

The management also said that these views are unacceptable and did not know the books were in the library. [Newham Recorder] Read more

01 April 2019

Spielman: LGBT protests ‘setting terrible example for children’

The head of Ofsted has called on campaigners to halt protests outside the gates of schools that teach pupils about LGBT issues, claiming it “serves no one well to intimidate teachers”.

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman used her speech at the Muslim Teachers’ Association’s 40th anniversary yesterday to say the protests make a “difficult situation worse, while setting a terrible example for the children”.

“It is children’s voices that always get lost when adults stop talking and start shouting,” she added.

Protests over relationships and sex education have been taking place around the country, with many parents and religious groups citing concern about the teaching of LGBT issues and homophobia in schools. [Schools Week] Read more

LGBT lesson row head teachers 'feel alone' and unsupported

Head teachers involved in a row over primary school LGBT rights classes say they "feel alone" and unsupported.

Parents, mostly of Muslim faith, have protested outside Parkfield Community School in Birmingham arguing their children should not learn about same-sex relationships.

More than 85 heads met with Department for Education (DfE) officials and the council in Birmingham on Friday.

The DfE said the schools can teach LGBT content but do not have to.

The No Outsiders project was halted at Parkfield Community School after demonstrations by some parents who said they believed the subject was "undermining parental rights and authority".

Deputy head teacher Andrew Moffat, who devised the programme, has said it was not about sex education but "community cohesion" and "people getting along". [BBC] Read more

Iranian women's rights activist condemns Western feminists for wearing the hijab in 'solidarity', saying: 'Calling the compulsory headscarf my country's culture is INSULTING'

A women's rights activist in Iran has said it is 'insulting' for Western visitors to wear the hijab in an attempt at solidarity.

Masih Alinejad, who has spearheaded Iranian women's struggle against the head covering, said female dignitaries from Europe had left her fellow campaigners 'on their own' by choosing to wear the hijab when they visited Iran.

Rejecting the argument that visitors should wear the hijab out of 'respect for the culture of Iran', she said they were 'sending a message that men are more equal than women'.

Ms Alinejad, the founder of the White Wednesdays movement which saw many women remove their headscarves in protest, said she was battling against a 'discriminatory law'. [Daily Mail] Read more

I’d be wrong to stay silent about homophobia in Islam – even though I’ll get abuse for it

It is hard to be a progressive Muslim in today’s riven, regressive, fanatical and tribalised world. It just got harder. Since January, groups of parents in Birmingham – most British Muslim – have stood outside primary schools and protested against teachers who are committed to teaching children about equality and respect for all, including LGBTQ people. Hundreds of pupils have been kept out of school.

This unseemly conflict started at Parkfield Community School, judged outstanding by Ofsted and known for its broad and open learning environment. A welcoming sign outside is written in six different languages. Suddenly none of that mattered. Young mums and various agitators stood outside and railed against sex education classes which “promote” homosexuality to their innocent babes.

.... Yet talk to them about “Islamophobia” and you will hear the most passionate arguments and compelling stories about what that means and why it’s wrong. They cannot see their own double standards. Nor do they understand the impact of their iniquitous views on LGBTQ people as well as other Brits who have always stood up for migrants, refugees, racial and religious minorities.

Muslims are making enemies of friends just when we face an existential threat. The coming confrontations, they need to understand, will not be between gay people and Muslims, but decent humans and those who are set to destroy decency, mutuality and the common bonds of humanity. Which side will they be on? [inews.co.uk] Read more

UN slams 'inhuman' Brunei law on stoning for adultery, gay sex

The United Nations decried Monday new "cruel and inhuman" laws set to take effect in Brunei this week which impose death by stoning for gay sex and adultery, and amputations for theft.

"I appeal to the government to stop the entry into force of this draconian new penal code, which would mark a serious setback for human rights protections for the people of Brunei if implemented," UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.

Brunei, an absolute monarchy ruled for 51 years by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, has said it will implement the new penal code starting Wednesday.

Brunei first announced the measures in 2013, but implementation has been delayed, in the face of opposition by rights groups, and as officials worked out the practical details.

The new law stipulates the death penalty for a number of offences, including rape, adultery, sodomy, robbery and insulting or defaming the Prophet Mohammad. [AFP] Read more

31 March 2019

Psychologist to be investigated over opposition to LGBT lessons

A psychologist who has played a key role in opposing the introduction of relationship and sex education lessons in schools is being investigated by her profession’s governing body over her fitness to practise.

Dr Kate Godfrey-Faussett, who has extensive experience working with young children and families, is a leading figure in Stop RSE, a campaign against relationship and sex education (RSE) lessons in schools.

In a speech broadcast online, Godfrey-Faussett, who converted to Islam 25 years ago, has that said many young Muslims were “turning to same-sex relationships because they haven’t had the guidance”. She has complained about the “queering” of the “Muslim community” and said Muslims should “work psychologically or in a mental health capacity” with those experiencing same-sex attraction. [The Guardian] Read more

30 March 2019

Islamic bigotry has been fuelled by the left

.... The Labour Party recently signed up to a definition of Islamophobia devised by the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims. “Islamophobia,” it says, “is . . . a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.” Besides being a clunky non-word, what is “Muslimness”?

Hardline Deobandi or Salafist Islam, which has erased tolerant traditions, branding itself the true Islam, demands women wear the hijab and even the niqab, although neither is Koranically prescribed. Are Muslim feminists appalled that British state schools permit parents to cover the heads of six-year-old girls, enshrining a culture of modesty, constriction and separation from infancy, targeting “Muslimness”?

.... Now there’s lots to do. First up, let’s focus on the rights of Muslim women, especially those in conservative communities, who resort to Sharia courts in domestic disputes and are often counselled to stay with violent partners. It is appalling that Muslim couples are not compelled to undergo civil marriage, with wives left in penury after a religious divorce. [The Times (£)] Read more

Inside the angry Muslim protests over lessons about LGBT relationships in Birmingham primary schools as teachers face abuse

IT’S home time, and wide-eyed children streaming through the primary school gates are met by a wall of noise from placard-holding protesters.

As two police officers look on, demo orchestrator Shakeel Afsar bellows into his megaphone: “Our children!” A throng of around 50 Muslim demonstrators, some in black niqabs, chant back: “Our choice.”

One home-made banner reads: “Say no to the sexualisation of children.” Another, scrawled in black marker pen, says: “Let kids be kids.”

For the past two weeks, protesters have gathered at Birmingham’s Anderton Park Primary School’s gates demanding an end to LGBT lessons for children as young as four.

Ringleader Mr Afsar, 31, whose niece and nephew attend the school, told The Sun: “Parents feel the school is forcing a different moral way of thinking on the children.”

A tinderbox cause for some religious communities, opposition to the lessons in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues, has spread through WhatsApp and social media and seen parents raising concerns in Manchester, Croydon, Oldham, Blackburn and Bradford. [The Sun] Read more

Head of LGBT protest school urges Government to act and says: 'We feel under siege'

The head at a Birmingham primary school has called for the Government to reject attempts to dilute messages of equality around LGBT issues - or risk a "bleak future."

Anderton Park Primary School in Moseley has been the subject of daily protests from some parents over the equality lessons.

Headteacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson has now called for action from the Government - and revealed the strain her staff have been under.

She said: "If someone is going to tell us that there are elements of the equality agenda that we just can't talk about, then I think we have a constitutional crisis. It is a terrifying prospect.

"This is the thin end of the wedge.

"If we succumb to what parents demand on this particular issue, and agree not to mention LGBT equality to young children, what do we say if there is a far right parents' group demanding we stop saying religions are equal, or black people are equal to white people? Where does it end?" [Birmingham Mail] Read more

Outlawing ‘Islamophobia’ would help jihadis

Last weekend the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, described the massacre in Christchurch as the result ‘of failing to root out Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment from our society’. His intention is to crack down on Islamophobia and give it a formal definition. He is right about anti-Muslim sentiment. But he is dangerously, terrifyingly wrong about Islamophobia.

.... Sadiq Khan wants the Tories to define Islamophobia as ‘a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness’. This definition would go down well in any autocratic Islamist regime, as it is so wide-ranging that it could apply to almost anyone or anything — even Khan has been accused of Islamophobia.

So the Mayor should be careful what he wishes for. If he gets his way, the jihadis would be delighted. It would be tragic if, in an attempt to protect Muslims, we ended up taking the jihadis’ bait. [The Spectator] Read more

29 March 2019

George Clooney calls for hotels boycott over Brunei's LGBT laws

George Clooney has called for a boycott of nine luxury hotels, including the Dorchester on Park Lane in London, because of their links to Brunei, which plans to impose death by stoning as a punishment for gay sex and adultery from next week.

“Let that sink in. In the onslaught of news where we see the world backsliding into authoritarianism this stands alone,” the film star and activist wrote in an opinion piece for Deadline.

In a novel form of political activism aimed at the global elite, he called for the public to join him in immediately boycotting the hotels operated by the Dorchester Collection luxury chain: three in the UK, two in the US, two in France and two in Italy. [The Guardian] Read more

George Clooney calls for hotel boycott over Brunei LGBT laws

Hollywood actor George Clooney is calling for a boycott of nine luxury hotels with links to Brunei, after the country said gay sex and adultery would soon be punishable by death.

From 3 April, homosexuals could face being whipped or stoned in the tiny South East Asian state.

In 2014, Brunei became the first East Asian country to adopt Islamic Sharia law despite widespread condemnation.

Mr Clooney said the new laws amounted to "human rights violations".

"In the onslaught of news where we see the world backsliding into authoritarianism this stands alone," the actor wrote in a column for the entertainment website Deadline.

"Brunei is a Monarchy and certainly any boycott would have little effect on changing these laws", he said. "But are we really going to help pay for these human rights violations?"

He said Dorchester Collection hotels in the US, UK, France and Italy, which are owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, should be avoided by those who oppose the measures. [BBC] Read more

28 March 2019

Why People Fear Islam

.... A map of the world where lesbian and gay people are criminalised and can expect to face harsh penalties is essentially a map of the Islamic world. A similar map can be drawn showing the worst oppression of women. It goes without saying, almost any credible list of the worst human rights offenders on Planet Earth will feature a majority of Islamic countries.

This is why people in the West fear Islamic immigration. It is not about racism and it is not about prejudice. Obviously there is a small racist contingent who oppose any and all immigration, particularly from countries with different skin colours, but there is nowhere near the level of opposition to immigration from Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, or Secular Humanists and Atheists, from anywhere in the world. We have to be honest about why this is the case.

If we’re honest, it is because we fear – for good reason – the regressive social attitudes and violent punishments for moral crimes that the Islamic world imposes. [Harry’s Place] Read more

Protests over LGBT+ classes ramp up at Birmingham school as MPs back more inclusive curriculum

Protests over lessons on same-sex relationships continued into their ninth day at a Birmingham primary school just hours after MPs voted in favour of a compulsory LGBT+ inclusive curriculum in schools.

Megaphone-wielding demonstrators at Anderton Park Primary School want classes teaching respect for LGBT+ relationships to be suspended until a resolution can be reached with parents who oppose the lessons.

Around 50 adults held placards and chanted “our children, our choice” outside the school gates as parents picked up pupils on Thursday afternoon. A group of children joined in with the demonstration.

The protest came after a large majority of MPs – 538 – voted on Wednesday evening in favour of new regulations to make relationships and sex education (RSE) compulsory in English schools from September 2020. [The Independent] Read more

Erdogan says time has come for Hagia Sophia to be a mosque

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday (Mar 27) it was time to rename Istanbul's landmark Hagia Sophia as a mosque, saying that it had been a "very big mistake" to convert it into a museum.

"Hagia Sophia will not be called a museum. It will be taken out of that status. We will call Hagia Sophia a mosque," Erdogan told A Haber television during an interview.

"Those who come to Hagia Sophia will visit Hagia Sophia mosque," he said.

The former church and mosque, now a museum, often sparks tensions between Christians and Muslims over Islamic activities held there, including the reading of verses from the Koran or collective prayers.

Its secular status allows believers of all faiths to meditate, reflect or simply enjoy the astonishing architecture of a building dating back to the sixth century. [CNA] Read more

In Saudi trial, detained women speak of torture, abuse

Saudi women activists detained for almost a year offered their defence at an emotionally charged hearing on Wednesday, alleging torture and sexual harassment during interrogation, courtroom sources said.

Eleven women responded to charges that rights groups say include contact with international media and human rights groups, in the second hearing of a high-profile trial that foreign reporters and diplomats are barred from attending.

Some of them wept and consoled each other and their family members gathered before a three-judge panel in Riyadh's criminal court as they accused interrogators of subjecting them to electric shocks and flogging and groping them in detention, two people with access to the trial told AFP.

At least one of the detained women tried to commit suicide following her mistreatment, a close relative said.

The government, facing intense international scrutiny of its human rights record, denies the women were tortured or harassed. [AFP] Read more

Brunei introduces death by stoning as punishment for gay sex

runei is to begin imposing death by stoning as a punishment for gay sex and adultery from next week, as part of the country’s highly criticised implementation of sharia law.

From 3 April, people in the tiny south-east Asian kingdom will be subjected to a draconian new penal code, which also includes the amputation of a hand and a foot for the crime of theft. To be convicted, the crimes must be “witnessed by a group of Muslims”.

Brunei, which has adopted a more conservative form of Islam in recent years, first announced in 2013 its intention to introduce sharia law, the Islamic legal system that imposes strict corporal punishments.

It was a directive of the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, who is one of the world’s richest leaders with a personal wealth of about $20bn (£15bn) and has held the throne since 1967. He described the implementation of the new penal code as “a great achievement”. [The Guardian] Read more